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Iron Dude

20 Aug

When a colleague tells you he just completed an Ironman and still finds time to volunteer, you know you need to get the details

Jason Everitt, a Service Officer here at Catchafire, appeared at work last Monday looking a little worse for wear. I wondered if he might have tied one on the night before. But it turned out the reasons were more interesting than an ill advised Sunday night bender. He had just completed New York’s Inaugural Ironman U.S. Championship, swimming 2.4 miles in the Hudson River, biking 112 miles and then topping it off with a full marathon (26.2 miles) for good measure. All while the rest of us were eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching the Olympics. Jason moved here from San Diego so maybe that partially accounts for his vim and vigor, but perhaps equally impressive, and frankly a little intimidating, was the rumor that in addition to his full time work bringing nonprofits into the Catchafire community, he also takes on Pro Bono Projects on the side! Here’s what he has to say for himself:

An Ironman! Why on earth would you do such a thing?
Until last year, I never thought about doing a triathlon. I was (am?) a terrible swimmer. My only experience on a bike was riding my beach cruiser to class and I hadn’t run more than three miles since graduate school. I registered for a sprint triathlon just to force myself to get healthy again. I trained hard and accomplished something I had never dreamed possible. I’ve been playing athletic chicken with myself ever since, signing up for bigger and bigger races and pushing my limits.

As a relatively recent New Yorker, did you learn anything about the city during your training?  
I probably learned less about geography than I did about what it means to be a New Yorker. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like a part of New York’s incredibly warm and welcoming athletic community. We struggled up Harlem Hill together, exchanging words of encouragement, strangers offered to help me fix flat tires. New Yorkers are a lot different than the way they’re portrayed in the popular imagination.

You mentioned you had some “dark moments” during the race. Other than immersing yourself in the Hudson River, which must have accounted for at least one, what did you mean by that?
Your body just can’t keep it together over fifteen hours of racing. Eventually, it’s going to fail you. At around mile 17 of the marathon we had to climb the stairs that lead up to the George Washington Bridge. It was the last big push before the sweet, sweet downhills and straightaways in Manhattan and I knew my wife, Carly, was waiting to cheer me on just on the other side. But I had been cramping up pretty bad for the last hour and my foot was bleeding. On the very first stair, my legs completely seized up. I couldn’t lift them, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do anything but prop myself up against a handrail. Fear and self doubt had been with me off and on all day, but then pain showed up and suggested they form a super group to bring me down. In the end it wasn’t my body that got me to pull myself up those 70 stairs, it was my mind and my heart. I learned a lot about myself on those stairs.

That’s very cool, Jason. I hear you’re also working on a Pro Bono Project when you’re not at work or training?
I’m working on a Public Relations Plan with an amazing non-profit called Bottomless Closet. It’s the only New York-based organization helping women get back into the workforce by providing interview preparation, business attire, professional development and financial skills. Their mission really speaks to me because it’s so simple. It’s about helping these women with concrete tools to achieve the professional and economic success that we all want and deserve. But, not unlike many other non-profit organizations, Bottomless Closet is so busy doing great work they don’t have time to get their story to the media. I am helping them build a plan that will help them strategically communicate with the press, while staying clear about the staff and time limitations of the organization.

How do you fit it all in?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say religious time management and a very patient wife. Also, Catchafire encourages us to take “service days” which is paid time off for staff to take on meaningful volunteer projects. It’s very much a part of the culture here at Catchafire — to invest in service as a transformative experience. So that helps too.

Advice for prospective Ironman athletes and potential Pro Bono Professionals?
Set lofty goals. Attack them with gusto. You’ll be rewarded for it in the end.

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Next Stop: Chapel Hill -Carrboro

10 Aug

Catchafire Continues to take North Carolina by Storm:

Now in Chapel Hill-Carboro!

We just launched in Durham in May and yet we’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm for Catchafire and the numbers of social good organizations and professionals getting involved. Inspired by this momentum, we are setting our sights on Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Stay tuned: on August 27 we will announce our 15 Founding Members – Carrboro-Chapel Hill. These local leaders have been nominated by the community for their outstanding leadership, strategic vision and dedication to building capacity. Watch your Twitter feed and our blog for profiles of these organizations throughout September.

We spent last week in Chapel Hill-Carrboro meeting with community leaders, organizations and professionals, and we felt embraced by this tight-knit community every step of the way. Everyone was gearing up for the flood of UNC Chapel Hill students to arrive in a few weeks and there was the electrifying feeling that you get just before a thunderstorm in the air! We look forward to getting to know both the Chapel Hill – Carrboro and university community this fall.

Celebrating Durham’s Pro Bono Leaders!

On August 2nd Catchafire hosted an event at Labour Love Gallery in Durham to extoll the commitment of 43 local professionals who have committed to giving pro bono through Catchafire in the coming months. We had 50+ folks in attendance and we all enjoyed great food, drinks & company in addition to music from the Al Strong Trio via The Art of Cool Project and a presentation by Catchafire’s CEO & Founder, Rachael Chong.

Share this post with friends and colleagues looking to give what they’re good at in the Triangle.

Photos by Cathy Foreman

Livin’ the Dream

31 May

My first week at Catchafire has given new meaning to the phrase “hit the ground running.” I’ve already taken ownership of many key tasks. For example, I’ll be responsible for recruiting new pro bono professionals and welcoming them into the Catchafire community, and supporting the professionals that are already in the fold. Lady Ryan has the good fortune of sitting next to me as I figure out how to climb all these mountains, and she’s been fielding my questions with good-spirited grace. (Thanks, Lady Ryan!)

My past week has been chock full of awesome learning opportunities. I’ve been practicing phone calls with Sir Ryan and Lady Ryan, and they are really challenging me to refine my strategy and execution. I can feel my performance getting better with each role play. A lot goes into creating excellent interactions with our professionals – each call has to be effective and efficient so as to make the best use of our professionals’ time.

Storytelling is another skill that I’ve been actively improving. It’s important that we explain Catchafire’s model and value clearly and concisely, and I need to articulate my own story and establish my credibility succinctly and effectively. I’m continually iterating and refining my delivery, and last night I got the opportunity to address a room of a 100+ people at a Social Innovation Demo Night event hosted by General Assembly and TechiesGiveBack. It went really well!

We always have more to do at Catchafire, which is how it works when you’re in the business of changing the way the world volunteers. It’s been a full week, and I’m feeling engaged, challenged, and ready to keep climbing, one mountain at a time. It feels good… like I’m livin’ the dream!

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Molly Ganley is a Community Associate at Catchafire. Before joining Catchafire, she worked with Special Olympics Minnesota to create empowering, community-focused experiences for people with diffabilities. Molly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Global Studies.

Conquer Mountains

23 May

Today was my first day at Catchafire and my brain is spent. Sir Ryan, Rachael, Rachel, Lady Ryan, and Jie spent time getting me started on the right foot with everything from vision clarity to account management protocol to email passwords. Everyone welcomed me warmly; I already feel like a member of the Catchafire team, and I am beyond excited about putting Catchafire’s mission, vision, and values into practice.

During a quick debrief after one of this afternoon’s trainings, Ryan Letada brought out a sheet of paper with this image on it:

Superimposed over the image was the phrase “Conquer Mountains.” After being inundated with information throughout the day, those words really struck me. Can you think of anything bolder? I love this attitude. First of all, mountains are there to climb. Challenges (in the social good sector and otherwise) exist as chances to prove something, to accomplish big things. But don’t just climb mountains. Conquer them. Do it with courage, with style.

In the words of Sir Edmund Hillary, who literally conquered mountains, “It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.” So that’s where I am right now. Facing mountains and feeling energized, I’m ready to start learning, growing, contributing, conquering. Here’s to Day 2.

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Molly Ganley is a Community Associate at Catchafire. Before joining Catchafire, she worked with Special Olympics Minnesota to create empowering, community-focused experiences for people with diffabilities. Molly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Global Studies.

Catchafire is Expanding to North Carolina’s Triangle

16 May

We are excited to announce our launch in the Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill region of North Carolina, beginning with Durham

 Durham marks Catchafire’s next city launch, after New York City and Boston. As part of the launch, on May 21st we will announce our 20 Durham Founding Members, organizations that are leaders in their community. Stay tuned for the announcements on Twitter and her on our blog where we will proudly feature these organizations throughout the end of May and early June.

Durham’s fun and tight-knit personality came through when we learned of their
2011 “Marriage” of Durham’s citizens to the city!

Why Durham?

Durham, with its innovative social good sector, robust professional network, and commitment to the local community, represents the best of American cities. We too value “local” and admire Durham’s strong sense of community. For our Founder and CEO, Rachael Chong, the Bull City also has a soft spot in her heart – it was at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy where she wrote the Catchafire business plan as her Master’s thesis!

Have you added your volunteer experiences to your resume? Why not?

22 Dec

Earlier this year LinkedIn conducted a survey of 2,000 professionals in the U.S. 89 percent of those surveyed said they had volunteer experience, yet only 45 percent included their volunteer experience on their resume. There are over 75,000 nonprofits listed on LinkedIn. If you haven’t already, you should be connecting with those you’ve volunteered for – as a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional or in your personal capacity – as well as those you support.

In September this year LinkedIn added a “Volunteer Experience & Causes” field to the LinkedIn Profile, enabling users to list their volunteer positions, causes they care most about, and organizations they support. Nearly half of the hiring managers in the LinkedIn survey said they consider a candidate’s volunteer experience to be equally as valuable as their professional career experience. Twenty percent said they’ve made a hiring decision based on a candidates’ volunteer experience.

Working professionals often overlook the significance of their volunteer experiences. If you’ve provided a nonprofit or social good organization with your skills, add it to the skills section of your LinkedIn profile and link to the nonprofit or cause. And, of course, the same goes for projects that you have completed with Catchafire, be sure to list them on both your LinkedIn profile and on your resume.

Follow this link to add “Volunteer Experience & Causes” to your profile.

Whether you’ve completed five Catchafire projects or just starting your first, be sure to mention that you’re a Catchafire Pro Bono Professional, connect to our company page and join our LinkedIn group. This will not only improve your profile and online visibility, but also provide you with another way to network with like-minded professionals and raise awareness for your causes.

If you’re looking for volunteer experiences where you can use your professional skills and would like to connect with thousands of nonprofits and social good organizations, click here to register and become a Catchafire Pro Bono professional.

We hope that LinkedIn will eventually allow volunteers to request recommendations from nonprofits on their profile pages, the same you can do under the “Experience” section of the LinkedIn profile. We contacted them today to ask when and if this may happen and await feedback. We’ll keep you posted.

Kellogg MBA students team up to do skills-based pro bono projects for Catchafire

28 Nov
KelloggCares Day is the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University’s annual community service day.  On this day each year, the entire Kellogg Community, including faculty and staff, family and friends, are invited to participate and give back to the community. Traditionally, Kellogg Cares works with social enterprises and nonprofits to do a range of team based activities over 4-6 hours.  Volunteer opportunities include leading educational sessions with students, gardening and promoting environmental sustainability, volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens, etc.
This year, KelloggCares organizers sought to provide participants with the opportunity to give their time on a skills basis, and reached out to Catchafire to provide skills based pro bono projects to their community. We were thrilled by the opportunity to be involved with KelloggCares Day. We believed it would be a fun challenge for Kellogg students, while also providing meaningful assistance to Catchafire on various areas of our strategy and expansion. Catchafire provided six different skills-based pro bono projects for KelloggCares Day, to be completed by teams of 6-7 students each. The projects originated out of Catchafire’s goals for national expansion and continued growth, and students were asked to provide strategic thinking on projects such as launch and expansion plans, new product ideas, incentive schemes, and revamping of the communications and media strategy. Just like every project on the Project Menu, Catchafire structured the Kellogg projects to ensure an effective and meaningful experience for those giving their time and skills. Each project included the following components:
  • Background information/ pre reading for students to provide context
  • A 1 hour phone call with a Catchafire team member to discuss goals and answer questions
  • Clear student prerequisites
  • Detailed project steps

KelloggCares Day ended up being a success, with Kellogg students enthusiastically providing strategic thinking and a fresh perspective on their projects. The students enjoyed using the skills they were learning at school in a real life situation and enjoyed learning more about Catchafire, with one student commenting, “…seems like an awesome organization and I’ll definitely be interested in volunteering with them in the future.” A big thank you to all the Kellogg students who participated. We look forward to taking the project recommendations further into implementation.

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